When our team set out to develop AbridgeMe at the beginning of 2014, our vision was clear in wanting to create the ‘go-to’ resource for finding a quick, opinion-free, “elevator pitch” style summary on any topic.
Our own frustrations with the existing resources and their lack of concise explanations motivated us to develop and build a community where contributors were challenged to write concisely and learners were guaranteed to get up to speed quickly.
The keyword that continued to define our vision being, quick.
While quick is a somewhat subjective term and can take many forms, for us the definition was simple — we were looking for the convergence of two key elements:
- the # of words a writer needed to effectively explain a topic.
- the # of words a person with no prior knowledge on a topic needed to get up to speed on it.
What we found from a knowledge seeker standpoint (and this probably isn’t earth shattering news to anyone), was that the shorter the explanation provided to them, and therefore the quicker they were able to get up to speed on a topic, the better. They also noted that their time was an incredibly valuable resource and if we could free up more of it (by delivering concise explanations), they were 100% on board.
When presented two well-explained summaries on a given topic, they almost always preferred the shorter explanation.
Fact: 8 seconds = current human attention span
With knowledge seekers looking to get up to speed as quick as possible, this left much of the leg work to those delivering the content — the contributors. We saw some incredibly good writers that had the unique ability to explain both straightforward (think September 11th Attacks) and somewhat complex topics (think Arab Spring) very simply and get people up to speed in often times under 75 words.
For those writers who either did not have the skill of short, articulate, explanation or more importantly did not have a good understanding themselves on the topic being explained, their explanations tended to drag on and on (200+ words) — this was something knowledge seekers could not stand. Get. To. The. Point. They’d stress. A response that certainly falls in line with the 8 second attentions spans noted in the fact above.
The challenge of course also revolves around the complexity of the topic at hand. This is why we ultimately decided to broaden the length to 100 words — roughly 4 to 5 sentences on average. Take for example String Theory, an incredibly complex Physics concept that is certainly very difficult to explain in 100 words or less. What this does (and is a by-product we intended to create) is for these highly complex type topics, it really requires somebody with deep subject matter expertise to explain it in a concise, yet informative enough way for knowledge seekers to understand.
Our goal all along has been to attract the world’s leading experts in these more complex fields to contribute their simple explanations and help the world understand them…Neil deGrasse Tyson if you’re reading this please reach out, String Theory is all yours.
While we certainly wouldn't disagree that our 100 word constraint is a bit more of an art than a science, we do truly hope to make the world a more knowledgeable place by bringing together those with the ability to deliver concise explanations and the millions of people around the world looking to maximize their free time and get up to speed quickly on any topic.